New Demands Threaten Peace Pact with Afghan Militant Group

Afghan police soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan police soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

ISLAMABAD — An Afghan militant group has issued new impossible-to-meet demands to sign a peace agreement, effectively scuttling the first such deal to be signed by the Afghan government, officials negotiating the deal said Monday.

An official negotiating the deal between the armed wing of the Hezb-i-Islami group, led by former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the Afghan government said the three conditions include cancelling security pacts with the United States, a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and that it be signed by the Afghan state and not the current Unity Government.

Ata-ul Rahman Saleem, deputy head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, said the two sides had reached a draft agreement several weeks ago and all that remained to finalizing the agreement was Hekmatyar's signature.

Hekmatyar is on the U.S. terrorist list and participated, along with many former warlords in positions of power today in Afghanistan, in the killing of thousands of people in Kabul during the 1992-1996 civil war.

Instead Hekmatyar tweaked the agreement, adding the three additional demands, a member of the Hezb-i-Islami negotiating team told The Associated. Tasked with carrying his fresh demands to Kabul was Hekmatyar's leading peace emissary, Amin Karim, as well as his son Habib-ur Rahman.

The demands were made in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said a member of the Hezb-i-Islami negotiating team who could not be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Saleem, who said he did not see the letter, said the two left the Afghan capital Kabul last week empty handed.

All three demands would be difficult to meet, and the last nearly impossible.

After a controversial 2014 presidential race, the United States brokered an agreement between the two presidential candidates that gave power to both, naming Ashraf Ghani as president and Abdullah Abdullah as chief executive officer. The newly formed government was labelled the Unity Government.

The Hezb-i-Islami official said the negotiations are deadlocked, while Saleem was firm that the Peace Council would not accept new demands.

Last month the Afghan government heralded the draft agreement as a major breakthrough and a success for President Ghani and his High Peace Council. It would be the first such peace deal since the insurgency began following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Hekmatyar's group pales militarily compared to the Taliban with its strength restricted to parts of the country's east and northeast. Still Hekmatyar, an ethnic Pashtun like most Taliban, does have support among the country's minority ethnic groups. The mainstream Hezb-i-Islami party which he founded also has several former adherents serving in prominent government positions in Kabul.


Shah reported from Kabul, Afghanistan

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